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Rural India School Enterprise

1306. Sanju Pal

Sanju Pal, from London, is the founder of Rural India Social Enterprise (RISE), an innovative education charity that aims to improve education both in the UK and rural India.

Sanju founded RISE in 2009 after winning the Teach First Learmonth School Project Award for her idea to promote social enterprise to students at Mulberry School for Girls, where she taught Maths. Since then the charity has supported over 1,000 young people through the ‘ROAR Challenge’ (UK) and ‘Yearn to Learn’ (India) education projects. ‘Yearn to Learn’ is RISE’s free literacy programme aimed at helping first generation learners and those most at risk of dropping out of school with their literacy in rural West Bengal, where 46% of 10-year-olds are at least three years behind their expected reading level. The ROAR (Reach Out And Rise) Challenge is a programme of workshops that inspires UK students to set up their own social enterprise to support ‘Yearn to Learn’ students in India, by establishing an intercultural partnership that strengthens their role as global citizens. 

In India, RISE also supports young people in rural communities who face significant challenges such as lack of food, lack of shelter, lack of clothes, child labour and child marriage. RISE is working amidst these issues to enable the hopes and dreams of young people and improve their quality of life. Students in the UK who have completed the ‘ROAR Challenge’ programme are more aware of global issues from building relationships with peers in India, with 93% of the students surveyed feeling more empowered to help others after RISE had worked with them. 

In a personal letter to Sanju, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:

“I know you do this with no thought of praise or reward, but allow me to offer my own recognition of how you are improving education for students in the UK and in India, raising their ambition and transforming their lives.”

Tulip Siddiq, MP for Hampstead and Kilburn, said:

 “Sanju should be very proud of being awarded the Point of Light award from the Prime Minister. Her work to encourage social enterprise among students, as well as bringing together those on opposite sides of the world, is inspiring. I wish her all the best with RISE as it continues its good work across the globe!”

Sanju said:

“I am so happy to be recognised for this award by the Prime Minister, which is very unexpected and uplifting news. I have volunteered for RISE in my capacity as Founder and Trustee for over 10 years, alongside my full-time role as a management consultant, making time in the evenings and weekends to oversee RISE’s operations in the UK and India. It has been really rewarding working with the team and knowing through our efforts the charity is making a positive contribution to the education of disadvantaged young people. I was delighted that in RISE’s 10th year anniversary we opened doors to our first school in Krishnanagar, West Bengal. I was born and raised in London but my parents, who came to the UK in 1967, encouraged me to visit and learn about the challenges of rural India from a young age. When I became a teacher through the Teach First graduate programme it felt very natural to come up with an idea to help these communities and at the same time empower my students in London through social entrepreneurship. Our ‘ROAR Challenge’ programme has run in 20 schools in London and we would love to work with schools across the UK so please get in touch if you are a teacher or would like to support the charity in any way.”

Pictured below: Sanju with ‘Yearn to Learn’ students on a trip back from the Kolkata marathon in 2016 – for these children it was the first time they had left their village to visit the capital of West Bengal.

Sanju Pal with Yearn to Learn students

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The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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